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Learning About Retinal Artery Occlusion

What is retinal artery occlusion?

The retina is the part of your eye that senses light so you can see. Retinal artery occlusion is a blood clot in an artery in the retina.

When an artery in the retina is blocked, doctors say it is "occluded." This blockage stops blood from flowing through the artery. And that can damage nerve cells that help you see. Or the artery may leak, causing swelling.

There is no pain. But most people suddenly lose all or most vision in that eye. It may last only seconds or minutes. But the vision loss can also be permanent.

How can you prevent it?

The same healthy lifestyle steps that help prevent other blood vessel diseases may help prevent this eye problem too.

  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. Smoking makes a stroke more likely.
  • Lose weight if you need to. A healthy weight will help you keep your heart and body healthy.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, and high-fibre foods.

How is retinal artery occlusion treated?

Treatment may include medicine, procedures, injections, or laser treatment. But these treatments don't always work.

Symptoms can be similar to other diseases that do need treatment. That's why it's important to act fast and call your doctor.

You will probably have tests to look for the cause and help prevent another blood clot in your eye or elsewhere in your body.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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